Life moves fast, and our littles seem to scream through it at lightning speed. In one blink of an eye, your squishy blob of cuteness will transform into a sassy teen and then be off into the world on their own. You want to make sure that your brood is well prepared for modern life and the stresses of this fast-paced world by equipping them with some basic life skills. Teaching life skills doesn’t have to be boring or even highly organized. Kids learn well by watching, but if you want to take a more pointed approach, we’ve gathered 25 vital life skills to teach kids and found some fun ways to teach them too!

25 Basic Life Skills to Teach Your Kids

boy riding on bicycle during daytime through a mud puddle one of the basic life skills all children should learn

While our current education model focuses intently on math and science, with some reading and basic writing skills chucked in, it doesn’t put much emphasis on essential life skills. Communication skills, problem-solving skills, and the basics of running a household are extremely important life lessons, and they primarily fall on the caregivers to teach.

As you read through this list, know that each parent will choose to attack these items differently. You know your child best, and you know what they’re ready for, but don’t be afraid to push them a little bit. They may just surprise you with their ability to pick up on what seems like advanced subject matter. Don’t let this list overwhelm you. Just take one thing at a time. Most of these topics will come naturally, especially after you read through them and they’re on your radar.

1. Time Management

It’s never too early to start teaching time management skills, but by the time your child reaches middle school, they will certainly be feeling the stress if they don’t have some basic tools in their pocket to manage their schedules.

  • Play time-based games like speed chess or Yahtzee.
  • Set up a daily routine for your child with a visible chart. Include times for play, cleaning their room, doing school work, and talking with family. Encourage your child to stick to the schedule and consider small rewards for young children for finishing their items on time.
  • Teach them how to use a calendar and plot all important dates and activities.
  • Help them set realistic goals and make detailed plans to achieve them. Children often have big dreams, and we don’t want to squash them, but we can help make them happen by breaking the dream down into smaller, more achievable goals and tackling them one by one.
  • Teach your child to tell time on a regular clock with hands by playing games. For instance, “We’re going to have a dance party from now until the big hand reaches the 1. That will be 10:05.” This skill isn’t being taught well in school anymore, and it’s kind of astonishing how many older children cannot read a clock that isn’t digital.

2. Interpersonal Skills

This is a broad category, but we’re mostly going to focus on communication. The tenants of proper communication involve mutual respect, active listening, and a willingness to learn. With this digital generation, we’re seeing a shift in interpersonal relationships. Kids are dating less. They’re spending more time at home, and their business relationships are strained due to an inability to communicate with other generations. Teaching them to communicate effectively in person will give them an edge over the competition and make them feel comfortable in the real world.

  • Play charades to teach the art of body language and how important your non-verbal cues can be.
  • “Pass the Baton” when having important family conversations. The person with the baton is the only one allowed to speak. While they are speaking. Everyone else is listening or taking notes. Encourage your child not to formulate a response or rebuttal during this time, but to focus on what their family member is saying and try to understand from the other person’s point of view.
  • Teach them to show attentiveness with active listening. This involves, nodding in agreement, asking pertinent questions to ensure that you understand, and repeating important points out loud to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Encourage introspection through journaling. Writing out thoughts before we blurt them out to others can help formulate more productive and less explosive interpersonal communication.

3. Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving and decision-making are two big topics that could include a lifetime of lessons. Mature problem-solving involves assessing a range of options, quickly but effectively evaluating the consequences, and taking the best course of action.

  • Take your family to an escape room to work on critical thinking skills and the ability to make decisions under pressure.
  • Play board games like Monopoly or Game of Life that focus on making decisions and then dealing with the consequences of those decisions.
  • Keep a jar of riddles of simple problems on your dining table that you can solve during dinner time together. Riddles are an easy way to teach children to think creatively and problem-solve in a non-intimidating way.
  • Role Play- Pretend to be an unhappy customer at your child’s restaurant and play out a heated conversation. Then, give them tips on how to handle the situation. Pretend to be a celebrity, and your child is the fashion designer. Tell them what you want, and have them peruse the options to create the perfect look for you.

When teaching problem-solving skills and decision-making, remind your child that every decision they make affects someone else. It’s not only important to consider the aspects of our own situation, but how our decisions might affect those we love.

4. Cooking

Cooking is a basic life skill that every child should be at least nominally familiar with. We used to learn this stuff in home economics, and in some schools, it’s still an option, but not all. Young children love to be in the kitchen with you, and as long as they are safe, there’s no reason not to allow them to cook with you. They can learn to safely use kitchen appliances, work on motor skills with stirring and mashing, and learn basic measuring skills too.

  • Set your toddler on the counter with a bowl and spoon and have them mix while you pour in ingredients.
  • Elementary kids can learn to follow a recipe and create their own basic meals. Put them in charge of dinner one night a week. Choosing the menu, gathering the items, and serving the meal. It works on decision-making, time management, and cooking skills.
  • Have your middle schoolers work on measurement conversion by giving them recipe instructions in ounces and having them convert it into milliliters.
  • For teens, life on their own is quickly approaching. Ensure that they can make a few basic meals by creating a small recipe book for them and teaching them to shop for ingredients on a guided shopping trip.
  • Teach kitchen hygiene by discussing the proper order for washing dishes, how to prevent cross-contamination when cutting meat, and how a paper towel harbors fewer germs than a dish rag. Model this behavior with frequent hand washing, disposing of sponges regularly, and properly storing food.

5. Housekeeping

Housekeeping is another life skill that is learned by modeling (and by assigning age-appropriate chores). While some adults feel guilty about giving their children chores, it’s not a punishment. Giving appropriate chores helps kids feel included, gives them a sense of accomplishment, and teaches them skills they’ll need as adults. When performing housekeeping duties, we work on time management, serving others, and health and hygiene. Housekeeping skills include folding laundry, dusting, picking up your toys, sweeping and mopping, vacuuming, organizing, and disinfecting.

  • Make laundry fun with a relay game. Your child will race to sort and fold the clothes against a timer.
  • Have older kids Google the remedy for stains and try out different options.
  • Send small children on a scavenger hunt for lost socks or missing items.
  • Wrap the feet of little ones with microfiber towels and send them to a dance party in the living room.
  • Have Swiffer Sweeper races down the hallway.
  • Challenge siblings to a clean-off and see who can clean their room the best in 30 minutes.
  • Create a house cleaning chart together as a family, and put your child in charge of making sure that everyone completes their tasks on time.

6. Basic Finance

Getting your own bank account is a pretty cool moment, but it’s also terrifying if you don’t know anything about money management. Childhood is an ideal time to insert basic life skills on money management and budgeting into the home curriculum. Skills could include checking the credit card statement for errant charges, balancing a checkbook, learning to withdraw money from the ATM, writing a check, opening a bank account, learning the difference between checking and savings accounts, the concept of interest, and keeping a household budget.

  • Sit down with your whole family, including the kids, and make a family budget. It should include your income, bills, insurance, estimated taxes, food budget, and extra spending. Allowing your kids to see what you’re working with, and how everything must be thought out in advance is eye-opening for them and helps them understand that money doesn’t grow on trees.
  • Create a fake checkbook and have children write down their spending and balance it.
  • Open a checking account for older children with a debit card. You can control the limits in the account, and they get to learn the basics.
  • Play the Game of Life or Monopoly together.
  • Place a bet on who will win a household challenge, and talk about how investments are basically educated bets.
  • Pull out your pay stub and explain it to your teens or young adult children. Talk about FICA, state taxes, and percentages. Explain the importance of pre-tax withdrawals for retirement funds.

7. Home Maintenance

Home maintenance is a basic life skill that seems to be fading in recent years. While there’s nothing wrong with calling a repairman for major fixes, every adult should know how to do some basic home maintenance.

  • Buy your children a fake tool set, and teach them how to use a screwdriver, drills, tape measure, and hammer.
  • Whoever clogs the toilet, plunges the toilet.
  • Teach ladder safety, proper use of a screwdriver, and the importance of air hygiene by having your older children change the air conditioning filters each month.
  • Play “Pick the Fix.” Simulate a broken item in the house, or use a real one, and have your young children choose the appropriate tool to fix the problem. Then, demonstrate how to fix it.
  • Show them how to turn off the main water if there is a leak in the house.
  • Teach older children how to light the hot water heater.
  • Show them how to turn off the electricity with a breaker when doing any electrical work.
  • Let small children clean out the lint in the dryer, and teach them about fire safety.
  • Little hands are perfect for cleaning out the gutter spouts.

8. Signatures

Most schools no longer require cursive writing in the curriculum. While you can get away without it in this digital world, you still need to occasionally sign a form. At least, teach your child to write their name in cursive.

  • Pretend you are sending a formal letter to a princess or the president, and practice your fancy writing.

9. Comparison Shopping

Part of staying on budget is finding the best deals. While we’re all guilty of the quick snatch and grab, occasionally, it’s important to reevaluate our shopping habits and do some comparison shopping.

  • Send older kids to the grocery store with cash and a list of items. Have them comparison shop to bring home as many of the items as they can with the allotted cash.
  • Send middle schoolers on a digital shopping trip to find the best price on a particular item you need for the home.
  • Younger children can learn this skill by looking at the prices of their favorite juice at the store and finding the cheapest one.
  • Comparison shopping isn’t all price-based either. This is a good time to talk about ingredients, quality, and manufacturing ethics as well.

10. Basic First Aid

Bandaging booboos and infection control are easy and fun to teach!

  • Simulate an injury on a baby doll, and work with your child to fix the ouchie.
  • Watch basic first aid and CPR videos on YouTube with older kids.
  • Go to Walgreens together and gather items for a first-aid kit.
  • Role-play emergency scenarios and have your children be the paramedics.
  • Talk about 9-1-1 and how to use it.

11. Car Maintenance

Car maintenance is an important life skill for the safety of your family. Teach your kiddos the signs of car damage and essential preventative care.

  • Teens should be taught how to change a flat before driving on their own.
  • Print out the possible dash icons, and have children memorize what they mean.
  • When getting an oil change, ask the mechanic if your child can watch and learn.
  • Talk about flat tires and show your child how to use the air tank at the gas station.
  • Make the car wash a family affair.

12. General Tax Knowledge

Most of us don’t really understand the ins and outs of taxes, but children must understand that you do have to file every year with the IRS. They will need to keep track of expenses, receipts, and important documentation. Make a list of what you give your tax professional every year, and give it to your older kids.

13. Caring for Pets

Caring for pets teaches empathy, personal responsibility, and time management.

  • If you have multiple pets, assign the care to each child with the youngest caring for the easiest pet.
  • Get a virtual pet for your child.
  • Start easy with plant care, and then move on to pets.
  • Simulate proper pet care with a stuffed animal.

14. Dealing With Failure

Oh man, this is a tough one. The reality of life is that you don’t always win though, and even when you do your best, sometimes you fail. Teaching children coping skills for life’s curve balls is probably one of the most important life lessons you can impart to them.

  • Read biographies of famous people who failed multiple times before succeeding like Einstein, Michael Jordan, or Madame Curie.
  • Ask self-reflective questions like “What could you do differently next time?” or “How did losing make you feel?”
  • When you play games, don’t let them win. Don’t dominate your children, but losing to a loved one who is gracious is a good way to start coping with loss.
  • Role-play different situations in sports, school, or the workplace, and walk them through the proper responses.

15. Memorizing Important Facts

Sometimes, iPhones break or get lost. Make sure your child knows their address, your phone number, and your real name. They should know which bus to take to get home if they get separated from you, and they should have memorized the major emergency numbers.

16. Applying for a Job

Success in the workplace starts with your application. First impressions matter!

  • Get on Canva and design a proper resume with your teen.
  • Role-play an interview using common questions (Google them).
  • Have them research proper interview attire and create an outfit.

17. Self-Defense

Consider enrolling your child in a self-defense or martial arts class. If nothing else, they need to be aware of their surroundings, be able to detect suspicious behavior, and know how to get to safety. Read a few articles together about human trafficking and teach your children how to protect themselves.

18. Swimming

Swimming is a basic life skill that isn’t just about being cool at a birthday party. It can be a life-or-death skill. If you’re not a great swimmer, then enroll them in a swim class or find a relative who’s willing to teach them.

19. Riding a Bike

Riding a bike is a right of passage. Children who spend time on their bikes get a sense of freedom and learn the value of being outside and exploring. It teaches physical health maintenance and works on gross motor skills. Most children can be taught to ride a bike without training wheels by age 4.

20. Basic Sewing

You don’t need to be a seamstress, but using a needle and thread to fix a button is a basic life skill that adults will find handy.

  • Collect random buttons and sew them onto scrap fabric for practice.
  • Use a plastic needle and yarn to help young children learn the technique.
  • Work on fine motor skills by threading a needle.

21. Using a Map

Google Maps is ingenious, and we all love it, but you still need some basic map skills to operate it. Plus, if you’ve got a wilderness lover on your hands, online maps are worthless in most remote areas.

  • Go Geocaching
  • Organize a treasure hunt with a paper map for your younger children.
  • Use a star-gazing app to map out the constellations and talk about finding direction by using the sun and moon.

22. Online Literacy

Like it or not, we live in a digital world. However, not all information online is useful, safe, or even remotely correct. Teaching kids to fact-check, protect their online safety, and respect intellectual rights is a big deal.

  • Fact Check Game- When your child tells you something they found online, have them Google at least three articles that support or deny their statement. Talk about political leans, how social media controls your feed by showing only ideas that you already align with, and how to find unbiased research.
  • Safety Pop Quiz- Ask your kids true or false questions about online behavior. For instance, “Is it ok to add apps to your phone without permission?”
  • Teach tenants of digital citizenship like respecting other’s digital property, not plagiarizing, and respecting others online just as you would in person. You can scroll through your Instagram feed and grab a few nasty comment sections to show your kids how easy it is to be an online bully and deter that behavior.

23. Etiquette

Good manners can take you a long way!

  • Visit relatives’ houses and ask them about the rules for wearing shoes in the house, furniture rules, etc. It helps children learn that not everywhere is like home and that there are basic rules for visiting public spaces.
  • Practice your table etiquette at home, so that when you go to a restaurant, your children are prepared.
  • Talk about formal language and when to use it. For instance, saying “yep” to your friends is totally ok, but when your grandfather or principal asks a question, “Yes sir” is a more appropriate answer.

24. Ordering at a Restaurant

This might seem silly, but if you always order your child’s meal for them, they never confront the aspects of making a decision on what to eat, confronting their fear of communication, or choosing quickly. The simple act of ordering their own food (once they can read) is a right of passage and can help with social intimidation, time management, and decision-making.

25. Anger Management

Controlling our tempers is difficult for adults, much less children. Start young with the toddler tantrums, teaching them skills to calm themselves and think clearly. Here are a few basic tenets to teach your kiddos to deal with big emotions.

  • Close your eyes and count to ten before saying anything.
  • Take a few deep breaths.
  • Take a run when you feel angry.
  • Write it down in your journal.
  • Talk to an adult that you trust.
  • When appropriate, avoid the trigger that makes you angry. Avoidance is not usually the answer, but there are times when evading a trigger or making special preparations can help. For instance, if you get angry every time you have to stand in line, then you should attempt to grocery shop at hours when it’s less busy.

Let’s Do This Thing Called Life!

a child in blue long sleeves learning the basic life skill of using an analog clock

Difficulties in life are inevitable, but you can make it a lot easier on your children by prioritizing life skills. With a few role-playing scenarios, some targeted time spent on essential skills, and pointed conversations, you can prepare your young ones for the challenges of adulthood and give them the confidence to succeed. Not every child will be a rocket scientist, mathematician, or doctor, but almost every child will have to budget their food allowance, pay their taxes, and care for a pet or plant at some point. Learning life skills at a young age increases their confidence, makes them more street smart, and helps them to navigate the wider world with ease. Do them a favor, and start implementing some of these essential life skill teachings today!

For more fun and educational activities to do with your crew, check out “Fun Indoor Games to Survive Rainy Spring in Arkansas.”

Summer is coming quickly! If you’re looking for a good time this season, take a look at our guide to the best amusement and water parks in Arkansas!

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